Financial Aid for International Students
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Reviewer & Writer
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- The U.S. is one of the most expensive countries to attend college.
- International students often pay more in tuition and fees to study in the U.S.
- There are financial aid options like scholarships and loans for international students.
- International students should complete the FAFSA to identify all financial aid options.
International students studying in the U.S. face many challenges, including the high cost of college. Studying in the U.S. can be expensive as the tuition and fees are much higher than in other countries. International students typically pay out-of-state tuition and fees, which averaged $26,382 for undergraduates at public four-year schools in 2018-2019, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).
In addition to tuition and room and board, international students have additional expenses like travel and moving costs, visa fees, and phone and banking expenses. Financial aid is typically limited for international students, but there are resources for international students that can help them pay the high costs of studying in the U.S.
Can International Students Apply for the FAFSA?
US students use the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine if they're eligible for institutional and federal aid like merit- and need-based scholarships, grants, the Federal Work-Study Program, student loans, and more.
International students aren't eligible for federal aid, but they are eligible for institutional aid — scholarships and grants schools offer. Colleges with large international student populations may have more scholarships for international students. As part of their college preparations, international students should complete the FAFSA to see if they are eligible for institutional aid.
Scholarships for International Students in the U.S.
In addition to the international student scholarships below, check your country's embassy or consulate in the U.S., your country's government office in your country, and your college or career school's financial aid office for more international student scholarship options.
Eligibility: The fellowship is open to international female graduate and postdoctoral students who intend to pursue careers in their home countries.
Award amount: $18,000 (master's degree), $20,000 (doctoral degree), $30,000 (postdoctoral study)
Eligibility: Test-takers living in Bangladesh, Colombia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa who will begin undergraduate or postgraduate studies in 2024-25 at an educational institution that accepts IELTS as part of its admission process
Deadline: September 2023, exact date to be annoice
Award amount: £3,000
Eligibility: The Fulbright Foreign Student Program enables graduate students, young professionals and artists from more than 160 countries to study and conduct research in the United States. Program eligibility and selection procedures vary by country
Deadline: Varies by country
Award amount: Varies by country
Eligibility: These education grants are for women from these developing countries already enrolled in accredited universities in the U.S. and Canada. Applicants must be at least 25 years old, demonstrate financial need, and be "committed to working for the well-being of women and children." Applicants do not need to be earning a degree -- they can be enrolled in a certificate program.
Deadline: Applications are accepted between September 15 and January 15 each year.
Award amount: Up to $15,000
Eligibility: This is a scholarship program for international and DACA college students. Applicants must be accepted to or enrolled in an MPOWER partner school.
Deadline: July 15, 2023
Award amount: $10,000 (Grand Prize), $2,000 (Runner-up), and $2,000 (Honorable Mention)
Eligibility: Citizens from these World Bank member developing countries who are applying for a master's degree program in a development-related topic, including economic policy management, tax policy, and infrastructure management
Deadline: February 28, 2023 to be considered for the first round. Second round applications are accepted until May 27, 2023, depending on your program
Award amount: The scholarship covers the duration of the graduate program or two years, whichever is shorter. The scholarship includes two-way economy air travel, $500 travel allowances for each trip, tuition, cost of basic medical insurance, and monthly allowance for living expenses, including accommodation, food, and textbooks.
Eligibility: International graduate students studying peace and conflict prevention/resolution, disease prevention and treatment, water and sanitation, maternal and child health, basic education and literacy, or economic and community development. Eligibility requirements vary by Rotary club.
Award amount: At least $30,000
International Student Loans
Sometimes scholarships, grants, savings, and budgeting are not enough to cover the cost of an education. Many students take out student loans to help pay for their education. There are two types of loans: federal loans, which are offered by the U.S. government, and private loans, offered by private companies.
International students are only eligible for private loans. International students have several options for private loans. However, there are advantages and disadvantages to take into account.
- Private loans can provide students with the opportunity to finance the college of their choice, which can be helpful for those attending expensive universities.
- Private loan companies may offer a faster application and disbursement process than other types of financial aid, which can be beneficial for students who need to pay for college expenses quickly
- Without federal loan limits, students may be able to borrow larger amounts of money. can help cover the full cost of attendance, room & board, and textbooks.
- Private loans often come with higher interest rates than federal loans, which can increase the total amount of debt that students accumulate over time.
- They typically offer fewer repayment options than federal loans, which can make it more challenging for students to manage their loan payments after graduation.
- Non-federal loans may require a co-signer and specific income and credit score requirements to be eligible for financing, which can be a barrier for many international students.
Other Funding Options for International Students
International students have multiple funding options available to finance their education. These options include government scholarships, bilateral student exchange programs, grants, on-campus or off-campus jobs, family contributions, and personal savings.
Financial Aid from the Country You're From
Some countries offer financial aid for their students to study in the U.S., including:
The U.S.-Japan Council's Toshizo Watanabe Endowed Scholarship Fund and the Japan-United States Educational Commission offer approximately 40-50 Fulbright grants for Japanese citizens to study or conduct research in the U.S. The Japan-United States Friendship Commission offers grants for Japanese students who want to study in the U.S.
Financial Aid from Your College
Institutional financial aid refers to funding provided by colleges, universities, or other educational institutions. However, international students may have limited options for institutional financial aid. This type of aid may include:
- Merit-based scholarships
- Need-based scholarships
- Fellowships and assistantships for graduate students
If you don't receive enough financial aid from your school, you may consider appealing for more financial aid.
Employment Opportunities for International Students in the U.S.
Though international students are not eligible for the Federal Work-Study Program, they may be able to work on-campus (or off-campus after their first year) and make money while in college.
However, international students must find a job related to their course of study and adhere to USCIS guidelines for students on F-1 and M-1 visas. You can use the money you earn to help pay tuition, room and board, and other costs associated with studying in the U.S.